Freelander under fire…but apologises

May 12, 2016 by Henry Benjamin
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Political hopeful Dr Mike Freelander has apologised for remarks he made describing Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island as “concentration camps”.

Dr Mike Freelander tends a young patient

Dr Mike Freelander tends a young patient

The Campbelltown paediatrician who told J-Wire “I am a Zionist” is contesting the key Western Sydney seat of Macarthur for the Labor party which needs only a 3.3% swing to wrest it from Liberal in the July 2 election.

The Daily Telegraph reported Dr Freelander saying “I would hate to think we would be torturing children in a place like Manus Island – in a concentration camp and I could never support that”. Dr Freehand told the Telegraph his opinion was a personal view and that “sometimes you have to make  decisions that go against the grain but support the greater good”.

Freelander’s comments follow a tweet from union organiser Corey Rabaut that the current German neo-Nazi party had endorsed Australia’s current refugee policy.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop campaigning in the Macarthur electorate with incumbent Liberal MP Russell Matheson said:  “I call on the Labor candidate for Macarthur to apologise to the government officials, to the people who are caring for those in detention facilities. For a candidate to try to draw a parallel between any action of an Australian government and the Holocaust and Nazi Germany is quite frankly shocking. He should apologise.”

Dr Mike Freelander told J-Wire: “As a member of the Jewish community I’m deeply aware that I chose poor words yesterday. I’m sorry for the offence I caused to my community.”

Ms Bishop’s remarks were backed up by the president of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Robert Goot who told J-Wire: “The words “concentration camp” will be associated by many people with the horrors of the Nazi regime. Its use as a descriptor of the refugee processing centre at Manus Island, is for that reason, inappropriate, unfortunate and regrettable.  Such exaggerations detract from the standard of political debate about what is undoubtedly, a serious issue.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten, asked about Freelander’s comments, responded: “I don’t accept the language that was used at all by our candidate. ”

Federal Labor MP Michael Danby told J-Wire: “Michael Freelander is normally a balanced political activist. The processing of those detained offshore should have been resolved by now,  giving the detainees the prospect of resettlement. An incoming Labor government will move quickly to make certain these centres no longer remain in limbo,

In Australia, the Labor Party is focused on the mainstream issues of health, education and superannuation. Labor had a passionate debate on the refugee issue at its National Conference. Dr Freelander is clearly unfamiliar with the arguments and the decision reached and should have acquainted himself before making public statements.

We need to make a deal involving other countries to move these people out of Nauru and Manus Island.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has welcomed Dr Mike Freelander’s apology.


3 Responses to “Freelander under fire…but apologises”
  1. david singer says:

    Michael Freelander sure chose poor words in describing the detention centre on Manus island as a “concentration camp”

    All detainees there – even before the recent Supreme Court decision declaring the centre illegal – were free to return to their home countries and receive monetary assistance from the Australian Government to do so.

    Were Jews in Auschwitz given the same opportunity to leave? Could they approach the Courts to have Auschwitz declared illegal?

    An apology by Michael Freelander was certainly warranted and is welcomed.

    He should now be dis-endorsed by the Labor Party for his offensive and highly inflammatory comments.

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for Bill Shorten to end Freelander’s political career path.

    • Benjamin Cohen says:

      David – that is patently ridiculous. Do you really think it is acceptable to dis-endorse a candidate for poor language choices (particularly when no reference was actually made to the holocaust), concentration camps were not and are not limited to the Nazi regime.
      Our community has a responsibility to speak out against injustice, we are failing.

      • david singer says:


        You miss the point.

        Michael Freelander was besmirching Australia and its international reputation in suggesting that the Nauru detention centre was a”concentration camp”.

        I believe dis-endorsement is warranted in such circumstances.

        After all it was the Labor Party that re-opened Nauru in 2012. Shorten surely wouldn’t be too impressed with one of his running mates calling it a “concentration camp”.

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